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Wednesday, 19 June, 2002, 06:25 GMT 07:25 UK
Pensioners 'miss out on 1.8bn'
Pensioner
Some pensioners do not like discussing their financial affairs
The UK's pensioners are missing out on up to 1.8bn of means tested benefits, a leading pensioners' charity has warned.


Despite benefits being available, more help is clearly needed to ensure people can claim what they are entitled to

Mervyn Kohler of Help the Aged

In a survey of older people on low incomes, Help the Aged found that many pensioners were missing out on Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit and the Minimum Income Guarantee (Mig) or income support for pensioners.

According to its findings, few pensioners knew about Mig or how to claim it, and on average they could be missing out on nearly 22 per week from the benefit - or more than 1,000 each year.

Recent figures published by the government, show that 770,000 pensioners who are entitled to claim Mig are not doing so, and Help the Aged is now urging pensioners to claim all the benefits they are entitled to or lose out.

Ignorance of benefits

The Mori survey commissioned by the British Gas Help the Aged Partnership found that 83% of older people on low incomes said they knew little or nothing about Mig.

What is the Minimum Income Guarantee?
Mig is basically income support for pensioners. It ensures that pensioners with less than 6,000 savings receive a minimum income of 98.15 (single pensioner) and 149.80 (couple). It will be replaced with the Pension Credit from October 2003

A total of 50% of older people on low incomes felt their income restricted them from leading a "full and active life".

Critics of the current system say the claims process is too complex, and many pensioners do not like the concept of means testing.

Under means testing, pensioners are required to reveal details of their finances in order to claim - and critics say that many are reluctant to talk about their circumstances so openly.

Mervyn Kohler, of Help the Aged, said: "The complexity of the benefits system can be daunting. Despite benefits being available, more help is clearly needed to ensure people can claim what they are entitled to."

How can I get more information?

The British Gas Help the Aged Partnership has produced a leaflet offering advice on eligibility and how to make a claim.

The leaflet covers such topics as Minimum Income Guarantee, Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit and help with health costs.

Copies of "Can You Claim It?" are available by sending an SAE to Information Department (CYCI?), Help the Aged, 207-221 Pentonville Road, London N1 9UZ. Leaflets are available from Help the Aged shops and from the website.

Age Concern, another pensioner charity, has a range of fact sheets about claiming benefits.

These can be obtained from its website or by calling on 0800 00 99 66 (free of charge).

The Department for Work and Pensions' new pensions service has details of all the benefits available to elderly people.

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 ON THIS STORY
Help the Aged's Mervyn Kohler
"The forms are complicated"
See also:

04 Mar 02 | Business
25 Mar 02 | UK Politics
22 Nov 01 | Business
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